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PAGE FRIGHT By: Harry Bruce January 2, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading, writing.

     PAGE FRIGHT gets its title from the many writers, famous and otherwise, who confess how utterly terrifying it can be to write.  Writers bare their souls and turn themselves inside out searching for insight to slather on paper, but are often not capable of recognizing if their own work has merit or not. Sometimes they argue that a rejected work is worthy of publication, and other times, they are left stunned, confused, and embarrassed by a highly lauded piece’s success because they view it as inferior. Harry Bruce’s fascinating account of the world of writing begins with an overview of the history of writing and man’s overwhelming desire to express himself. It then goes on to explore the various methods that have been used to record ones thoughts and feelings. The historic beginnings for using quills, pens, pencils, typewriters, word processors and computers are all examined, as are the various techniques and positions writers have assumed to complete their work. Some sit, some stand, some lay down, and others, such as THE LIFE OF PI’S Yann Martel have such bony butts, they need extra padding in order to sit for extended periods of time. (Note: the writer of this review does not suffer with that particular problem.)

     It’s amusing to read the older quotes about how one cannot trust writers who write with pens rather than quills, or that work suffers if one  employs typewriters, while we are now steps beyond the rickety manual typewriters that were once considered so new-fangled. As you might imagine, Bruce does get into addictions and discusses  authors who wrote under the influences of alcohol, pot, opium, cocaine, codeine, benzadrine, coffee, tea, and tobacco, among others. (Balzac drank about fifty cups of sludgy coffee per night and is the only great writer who drank himself to death with coffee.)
     This is a fantastic book for writers and readers alike, and book discussion groups will probably run late while discussing the array of authors, techniques, opinions and vignettes offered in this amusing and interesting text.  There are numerous authors mentioned, and it’s great fun to suddenly stumble upon a quote from a favorite, or read a line that perfectly explains ones emotions while laboring over his or her own books and essays. It’s well worth a read — or at the very least, a good and thorough thumbing.



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